Last Thursday at The Next Web I talked about how we need an Internet Bill of Rights to protect our data and the countless hours we pour into complex online services, such as Facebook and Last.fm, and that the foundations for this were laid down 20 years ago by Richard Stallman and the GPL.
Today our servers are running various versions of MySQL, tomorrow they’ll be running the same thing, and if need be ten years from now they can run the exact some software. Because of the GPL every WordPress user in the world is protected — we’re not beholden to any one company, only to what works best for us. Today that’s MySQL, tomorrow that’s MySQL, a year from now we’ll see.
Most importantly whatever happens will happen on our timeline. That’s the definition of Freedom.
Here are few other reasons not to be worried, and a bonus at the end.
Oracle bought Innobase, makers of the InnoDB engine that most large users deploy as their main storage engine, in October 2005. The sky has not yet fallen.
As a company Automattic has never really needed the support services that MySQL provides and even if we did there are plenty of third parties also providing support.
On the one hand, it’s excellent validation of the Open Source model. Thanks to reasonable licensing, companies other than Sun/MySQL are able to enhance and fix the software and give their changes back to the world.
In terms of innovation, the most interesting developments have been from outside as well, in projects like Drizzle. (I would not be surprised if this moment is for Drizzle what Movable Type changing their licensing was for WordPress, even though in this case they’re both Open Source.)
I’ve met a number of people at Sun who are incredibly smart, and if they stick around I expect cool things to continue to come out.
There are some new developments in the WordPress world, namely that I think it would be possible to add support for databases other than MySQL without changing every $wpdb call or breaking any plugins or themes. It won’t be easy, but the coolest stuff seldom is.
You may know of Infectious as those guys who make the cool vinyl decals for cars. Now they have laptop and iPhone skins, too, and WordPress has partnered with Infectious for the launch with the “I <3 Blogging” contest.
The winners will be chosen by Derek Powazek, Matt Thomas, Team Infectious, and yours truly, and the prizes are sweet. If you nab the grand prize, your design will be printed on laptop and iPhone skins that will be sold in the Infectious store. You’ll also get a cut of the profit from their sales, $400 cash, some WordPress schwag, and $400 to spend on merchandise in the Infectious store.
In the same period (10 days) there were 579,871 downloads of 2,527 plugins.
I imagine 2.6 adoption will pick up after the 2.6.1 release — a lot of people wait for the .1 before upgrading.
How are we celebrating? By working on 2.7!
It should be a fun release both for the features we have planned and also because it might incorporate some of the aspects of Crazyhorse, our experimental bizarro world dev branch which we’re laser-eye-testing in NYC next week. (700 blogs are running 2.7 already.)
Since people are asking, this so-called alert on Security Focus appears to be completely false and has no information that an attacker or the WordPress developers could use. It is completely content-free, except for making claims that every version of WP since 2.0 is vulnerable.
Online, apparently, it’s fine for someone to run into a crowded theatre and yell “fire” and the less basis there is in fact the more people link to them. It’s not uncommon to see crying-wolf reports like the above several times in a week, and a big part of what the WP security team is sifting through things to see what’s valid or not.
A valid security report looks like this, it usually includes sample code and a detailed description of the problem. The WP security team was notified of the KSES problem and it was fixed in 2.5. You can impress your friends by saying whether a security report is valid or not, so it’s a good critical facility to pick up.
All that said, there is a wave of attacks going around targeting old WordPress blogs, particularly those on the 2.1 or 2.2 branch. They’re exploiting problems that have been fixed for a year or more. This typically manifests itself through hidden spam being put on your site, either in the post or in a directory, and people notice when they get dropped from Google. (Google will drop your site if it contains links they consider spammy, you’ll remember this is one of the main reasons I came out against sponsored themes.) Google has some guidelines as well, what to do if your site is hacked. If I were to suggest WordPress-specific ones, I would say:
Today I’m happy to announce that Andy has joined Automattic full-time and we’ll be taking the BuddyPress project under our wing. We will grow it and support it the same way we support WordPress, MU, bbPress, Akismet, and more.
It’s clear that the future is social. Connections are key. WordPress MU is a platform which has shown itself to be able to operate at Internet-scale and with BuddyPress we can make it friendlier. Someday, perhaps, the world will have a truly Free and Open Source alternative to the walled gardens and open-only-in-API platforms that currently dominate our social landscape.
Scriblio MATC Project Final Report. Scriblio is a system for helping libraries and is built on top of WordPress. The article describes some of the troubles with the close association with WordPress:
Shortly after the Mellon Foundation announced the award to the Scriblio project, the WordPress core developers reversed their longstanding position on tags and announced that the next release would include tag support. This is significant because metadata such as author or subject is functionally equivalent to tags in Scriblio, and much of the Scriblio code was devoted to managing those tags.
It also describes some of the benefits:
[T]he relationship between the open source WordPress community and commercial participants, including Automattic, the commercial entity that operates WordPress.com, has proven itself to deliver real benefits to all. […]
And the Scriblio project has enjoyed opportunities to contribute to the WordPress community as well. […] One recent example is Ticket #5649, where a change proposed by Scriblio was committed to the baseline code within an hour of its submission.
Overall, a good read on building a project on top of WordPress, helping an under-served community, and giving back by strengthening the underlying platform.
The SQL problem in 2.2 requires both registration to be enabled (off by default) and the blog to be upgraded to 2.2. It is a serious problem but I’ve heard of fewer than 5 exploits from the flaw. Even if you assume there are 100 blogs for every one we heard about, that’s still an incredibly small percentage of the millions of WordPresses out there, especially considering, as Wincent points out, the problem has been in the public for a while now.
Getting people to upgrade web software is hard. We work as best we can with hosting companies, but a consideration is that it’s best to roll several security fixes into one release. It’s not responsible to do a release if we know of another problem, so sometimes there is a lag between an initial report and a final release, not to mention the testing required of a product used as much as WP.
Wincent digs up the server crack that modified the files of 2.1.1 for a few days. Ignoring the fact that it was a server issue and had nothing to do with WordPress the software, we actually had NO reported exploits of the problem. (Though I’m sure there are at least a handful out there with problems, it wasn’t enough to hit our radar.) Despite that we took a hit and publicized the issue as much as we could to get the word out.
Also about 2.1.1, the problem was found through someone proactively auditing the codebase.
Finally Wincent says of WP “[a]nd if you insist on installing it, then you need to watch the trac like a hawk.” You would think complete transparency of the problems (it was on our bug tracker and mailing list) would be a good thing, especially considering the software Wincent uses doesn’t have a bug tracker, and the only way to submit a bug is through a contact form.
We can and do review new code for problems, and pick the vast majority up before any releases. I think the real issue though is not that WP has bugs which are sometimes security related, which all software not written by djb does, but that the mechanisms for updating complex web software are a pain. Right now the best experiences are probably with folks like Media Temple or Dreamhost that have pretty foolproof one-click upgrades and are quick with updates.
Making notification better and upgrading more painless for people not lucky enough to be on a host like that are problems with some very clever minds on them, and I’m confident that we’ll have good progress toward each in the next major release of WP.
Finally, I suppose we could act more like our proprietary competitors and try to downplay or hide security issues instead of trumpeting them loudly in our blog, but I think the benefit of having people well-informed outweighs the PR lumps we take for doing the right thing. I truly believe talking about these things in the open is the best way to address them.
In some ways it’s a good problem to have. When a product is popular, not only does it have more eyes from security professionals on it, but any problems garner a level of attention which is not quite warranted by the frequency of the general event, like Angelina Jolie having a baby. There are certainly things intrinsic to coding that can make software more or less secure, but all things being equal the software with the most eyes on it, which usually means Open Source, will be the most robust in the long term.
One interesting thing in the whole adware themes discussion is the people claiming if we require GPL it’ll kill the number and quality of themes out there, that the best themes have ads in them, that they couldn’t make themes if they weren’t getting the SEO gaming money, et cetera and so on.
There are two types of WordPress add-ons, themes and plugins. Are there any similarities?
Plugins are just as hard or harder to write and design as themes.
Plugin authors almost never get links on the front-end of a blog.
I’m not aware of any plugins that bundle advertising with the intention of gaming search engines, like themes are.
Despite all of this, the plugin ecosystem around WordPress is flourishing, especially since we made the plugin directory, and hundreds have been added. It seems any of the doomsday scenarios people are expecting to happen to themes would have happened to plugins years ago. If ad-bundled themes really are better, a suggestion I find insulting to all those who volunteer their time for WordPress, then maybe they should start their own theme directory with only adware themes and they should get a ton of traffic.
(And just to respond to the title, I think plugin authors get tons of love, and hopefully we can help them get more with upcoming revisions to the plugin directory.)
Based on the comments on the last entry I think we’re going to kick off the April 11 meetup at Bryant Park at 6:30, and if needed migrate for drinks at 8 PM when the park closes to someplace like Heartland Brewery on West 43rd. How’s that sound to the New Yorkers in the audience? Update: Scott says “The northwest corner of the park is the most accessible (south of the Starbucks, east of the Verizon shop). Plus that’s where the coffee is.” That’s where we’ll meet. I’ll be in a beige overcoat and green shirt.
71Miles is a cool new travel site with a twist PM readers will find interesting — it’s built with WordPress. How? Adam Rugel writes “The nuts and bolts of our site is WordPress, it’s our foundation and content management system. We extended it to manage our content feeds: Google Calendar XML for the events calendar, map, and mobile product and Kayak’s brand new hotel API for the hotel deals. We tricked out the custom fields in WP to do a lot the work for us, and we’ve got the categories set up so that we can scale to roll out dozens of editions (NYC, LA, Chicago…). At any rate we’re loving the platform…” Definitely one of the coolest uses of the WordPress framework I’ve seen in a while.
Jim Amos just wrote in that Campbell-Ewald launched a new WordPress-powered site for the US Postal Service, called Deliver Magazine. Congrats to Jim and Naoko McCracken! Ryan noticed the other day that Nancy Pelosi has a WordPress blog at Speaker.gov called The Gavel. Cool domain name, and good to see WP being used in the political realm, especially since none of the Presidential candidates for 2008 are using WP (yet). If you come across or instigate WordPress being used someplace cool, be sure to write in.
How WordPress Spoils Developers, I get the impression Brian is bullish on the future of WP. He’s right that we have a lot left to work on though, after 2.1 is out the door I think there’s going to be a ton more core development. Update: I agree far more with the developer-friendly bits than the “no room for anyone else” bits. If the latter arguments were true, WP itself wouldn’t exist and the fact that it’s never too late for something new is a point I emphasize in my talks a lot.
WordPress Wii Edition Plugin, so you can browse your blog from the Wii browser. I’ve gotten a Wii and it’s definitely the device of the season, it doesn’t do as much as the PS3 or Xbox, but it’s way more fun.